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October 22, 2001

Oxford arts center makes smashing debut

By Eric Rangus


After one year of construction that capped more than 10 years
of hopes and dreams, Oxford’s performing arts center was dedicated at an on-campus ceremony, Oct. 12.

The gala opening of the Hugh and Gena Tarbutton Performing Arts Center, named to honor the Oxford alumnus (’52Ox-’55B) and his wife whose $1.2 million gift helped fund the project, drew more than 150 people, many of whom spilled out from under the blue-and-white striped tent on the Oxford quad where the stage was set up.

“There are people here today who have waited for this moment for more than a decade,” said Oxford Dean Dana Greene, referencing the history of the effort to bring an arts center to Oxford, one that began during the deanship of her predecessor, Bill Murdy. Actual construction began in September 2000.

“In more ways than we can estimate, this is a day for rejoicing, rejoicing in this achievement and in the friends we have,” Greene continued.

The new performing arts center actually encompasses three locations: the Tarbutton Center,
a 15,500 sq. ft. building representing the project’s only new construction, and renovation to two existing buildings—Williams Hall and Few Hall, which connects to Tarbutton.

“These three buildings signify not only our commitment to the improvement of infrastructure, but also our commitment to the enrichment of the intellectual, social and cultural components on this campus,” said Euler Bropleh, Oxford’s Student Government Association

Chair of the Board of Trustees Ben Johnson and President Bill Chace also spoke briefly at the ceremony. Cheryl Fisher Custer (’81Ox-’83C), chair of Oxford’s Board of Counselors, presided.
Following the ceremony, attendees were invited to tour the three buildings, each providing a different artistic focus.

The centerpiece of the new Tarbutton Center is the 131-seat theater, built for dramatic performances but suitable for a variety of uses. The newly constructed hall also includes a scene shop, rehearsal space, a lobby and a ticket office.

The upper levels of Few Hall—Oxford’s second oldest building, dating to 1852—are for music and choral classes, and practice and performance space. Few Hall’s bottom level also includes an art studio and gallery space, the back of which opens out onto a patio.

Across the quad in the renovated Williams Hall is a new dance studio, complete with seating for 180. New classroom space for P.E. and dance was constructed as well.
Other improvements to both Few and Williams include updated, state-of-the-art audiovisual systems, new lighting and better acoustics.

In her words of thanks, Greene touched on not only the historical architecture the arts center pays homage to, but the many people involved in realizing the vision of an arts center on campus.

“Like the medieval cathedrals of 13th century France, ours is the work of the many—of a community of architects and artists—of builders, of merchants, of donors and of those who believe in the transformative potential of the arts to lift the spirit, challenge the mind, broaden the horizons and deepen the inner life,” she said.

Chace also mentioned the fulfilling quality of artistic expression. “The glory of art and creativity comes in changing the world by changing the way we look at it,” he said.

The project, which cost $6.3 million, represented the completion of the largest fund-raising drive in Oxford’s history. That effort was highlighted by the $1.2 million from the Tarbuttons, the largest single gift to the college by an alumnus.

And the Oxford community didn’t wait to put its new facilities to use. Several of the practice rooms in Few Hall were occupied by student musicians who would nod politely to visitors peeking in on the them during the open house, then return to work.

In Williams Hall, a handful of dance faculty and students were choreographing a routine to Run-D.M.C.’s “It’s Tricky,” which, perhaps unintentionally, gave visitors a first-hand listen to the gym’s new, pristine sound system and the nearly 100-year-old building’s excellent acoustics.


Back to Emory Report October 22, 2001